As the coffee brews, I have seven minutes of time to kill. Truth be told, I have so much more time than seven minutes. Other than a plan to meet up with a couple of friends sometime today (tonight? – sailors are often very non-specific when it comes to plans), I literally have nothing on my calendar until April. And I could get out of that commitment if I wanted to. The utter openness of it all is starting to get to me a little.
In my former life, everything was governed by the clock. Airlines like to make a big show of safety and comfort, but what really pays the bills is getting people to places on time. My “show time” for work was specific to the point of silliness. Departure is scheduled for 6:42 a.m., show time is 5:57. No, not six. Those three minutes matter. It’s a 15 minute ride in the hotel van, but it only leaves every half hour, at 15 and 45 past the hour, of course. Because that seems like a totally normal thing. I think I’ll risk it and arrive at the airport three minutes late instead of 27 minutes early because I still possess some small nugget of common sense left from before I became I pilot. What happens if the van is delayed by traffic? I’ll find a way to make it work even if those three minutes of tardiness stretch to seven. Isn’t that cutting it a little close? I assure the nervous co-pilot that things will be alright, but she doesn’t seem convinced. That command decision made, the 5:45 van time means I have to wake up at 5:05. Not 5:00. I’m not an idiot; those extra five minutes of sleep are a matter of life and death. Did I mention that my body thinks that 5:00 a.m. is really 3:00 a.m.? Time zones can be a killer.
After seven minutes in the percolator, the freshly ground Columbian is cooling in my cup. I am back on the job and the hotel elevator doors open with one minute to spare before the van is scheduled to depart. One minute to drop a room key at the desk, fill a paper cup with complementary hotel grade coffee (lack of cream and sugar saves precious seconds), snag a copy of the world’s most anodyne newspaper and wheel my bags to the curb. I hear mumbled good mornings as I fasten the seat belt. The dashboard clock ticks over to 5:45 while I’m glancing at it – it’s bad form to force others to wait on a dawdling captain, after all. Flight attendants? Check. First officer? Damn, where’s the co-pilot? I spend six minutes figuring out that she took the van 30 minutes ago. Now we’re actually going to be late.
Back onboard, the almost “super moon” set a couple of hours ago and the sun is finally above the tall hill to the southeast. St. Somewhere is moored in the lee of St. John with enough cover from the north to quell the rolling seas just around the corner. The clouds spell rain again today, but that’s not big news this time of year in the Tropics. I’ve made a command decision not to take advantage of the potential break in the weather to sail on. The weather forecast describes the next 48 hours as the “least bad” weather for sailing east for the next couple of weeks – not a ringing endorsement. I remind myself that no one bought a ticket for this flight. Folks, we apologize for short delay, but your safety is our top priority. We will be underway shortly and try our very best to make the ride as smooth as possible. Welcome aboard.